A Signature need not be a name, much less the signer's name
A signature can be any word or mark which represents a person, and which indicates that the signer has read and agreed to the document. It need not be the person's name, nor written using the standard "roman" alphabet used for the English Language. Nor is there any requirement that a signature be particularly complex or unique, or hard to forge. A simple "X" will do. Section 3-401(b) of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) reads:
(b) A signature may be made (i) manually or by means of a device or machine, and (ii) by the use of any name, including a trade or assumed name, or by a word, mark, or symbol executed or adopted by a person with present intention to authenticate a writing.
The key element is the "present intention to authenticate a writing".
Upcounsel's page on "Legally Binding Signature confirms this, reading:
A legally binding signature makes an agreement official once all parties have placed their signatures on a contract. Signatures are the most common method of indicating that you have read over and agreed to the terms, even if a person’s signature is so stylized and unique that’s illegible. Further, as agreements move into digital form, the basis on what qualifies as an official signature has been broadened substantially.
All one would need is a mark that represents who that person is. It can be in the following forms:
As long as the signature represents who that person is and his or her intent, any of the marks are considered valid and legally binding. Signatures are usually recorded in pen, but this is not always the case. ...
A signature may be issued by anything that marks on paper. The pencil is not the ideal choice because it can erase or be smudged, but signatures made in pencil are just as valid as signatures based in pen. Signatures can be issued in digital form or via stamps because there are various forms of writing implementations.
The Free Dictionary's legal dictionary section defines "Signature" as:
A mark or sign made by an individual on an instrument or document to signify knowledge, approval, acceptance, or obligation.
The term signature is generally understood to mean the signing of a written document with one's own hand. However, it is not critical that a signature actually be written by hand for it to be legally valid. It may, for example, be typewritten, engraved, or stamped. The purpose of a signature is to authenticate a writing, or provide notice of its source, and to bind the individual signing the writing by the provisions contained in the document.
Spencer Knight's page "Does a Signature Need to Be in Cursive?" says:
... with a wet signature (i.e. a signature that is written rather than electronically typed), a person could potentially use their printed (non-cursive) name or even a symbol like a happy face as a valid signature. The purpose is to leave an identifying mark on a document that confirms the identity of the signer and demonstrates their intent to consent to the contents of the document
However, the page goes on to say that a standard cursive version of the person's name may be less likely to cause problems and be more easily accepted.
In the case of a notarized signature, the notary's certificate testifies that the notary personally observed the signer signing, and that the notary either checked valid ID, or by some other means is convinced that the person is who the document claims s/he is.
15 U.S. Code § 7006 provides that:
The term “electronic signature” means an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.
15 U.S. Code § 7001 provides that:
(a) In general
Notwithstanding any statute, regulation, or other rule of law (other than this subchapter and subchapter II), with respect to any transaction in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce—
(1) a signature, contract, or other record relating to such transaction may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form; and
(2) a contract relating to such transaction may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because an electronic signature or electronic record was used in its formation.
15 U.S. Code § 7002 allows state laws different from § 7001 only if such laws implement the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) or if such a law:
(2) (A) specifies the alternative procedures or requirements for the use or acceptance (or both) of electronic records or electronic signatures to establish the legal effect, validity, or enforceability of contracts or other records, if—
(2) (A) (i) such alternative procedures or requirements are consistent with this subchapter and subchapter II; and
(2) (A) (ii) such alternative procedures or requirements do not require, or accord greater legal status or effect to, the implementation or application of a specific technology or technical specification for performing the functions of creating, storing, generating, receiving, communicating, or authenticating electronic records or electronic signatures;
15 U.S. Code § 7003 lists various specific exceptions to § 7001 Including:
- wills, codicils, or testamentary trusts;
- adoption, divorce, or other matters of family law
- court orders or notices, or official court documents
- the cancellation or termination of utility services
default, acceleration, repossession, foreclosure, or eviction, or the right to cure for a residential mortgage or lease
- the cancellation or termination of health insurance or benefits or life insurance benefits
- recall of a product, or material failure of a product, that risks endangering health or safety
The UETA (section 2 subsection (8) provides that:
(8) “Electronic signature” means an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.
(official comment) The idea of a signature is broad and not specifically defined. Whether any particular record is “signed” is a question of fact. Proof of that fact must be made under other applicable law. This Act simply assures that the signature may be accomplished through electronic means. No specific technology need be used in order to create a valid signature. One’s voice on an answering machine may suffice if the requisite intention is present. Similarly, including one’s name as part of an electronic mail communication also may suffice, as may the firm name on a facsimile. It also may be shown that the requisite intent was not present and accordingly the symbol, sound or process did not amount to a signature. One may use a digital signature with the requisite intention, or one may use the private key solely as an access device with no intention to sign, or otherwise accomplish a legally binding act. In any case the critical element is the intention to execute or adopt the sound or symbol or process for the purpose of signing the related record.
The definition requires that the signer execute or adopt the sound, symbol, or process with the intent to sign the record. The act of applying a sound, symbol or process to an electronic record could have differing meanings and effects. The consequence of the act and the effect of the act as a signature are determined under other applicable law. However, the essential attribute of a signature involves applying a sound, symbol or process with an intent to do a legally significant act. It is that intention that is understood in the law as a part of the word “sign”, without the need for a definition.
This Act establishes, to the greatest extent possible, the equivalency of electronic signatures and manual signatures. Therefore the term “signature” has been used to connote and convey that equivalency. The purpose is to overcome unwarranted biases against electronic methods of signing and authenticating records. The term “authentication,” used in other laws, often has a narrower meaning and purpose than an electronic signature as used in this Act. However, an authentication under any of those other laws constitutes an electronic signature under this Act.
The precise effect of an electronic signature will be determined based on the surrounding circumstances under Section 9(b).
This definition includes as an electronic signature the standard webpage click through process. ...